Philippians 2:6
Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:
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(6) Being in the form of God.—(1) The word “being” is here the more emphatic of the two words so translated, which lays stress on the reality of existence (as in Acts 16:20; Acts 17:28; 1Corinthians 11:7; Galatians 2:14). Hence it calls attention to the essential being of Christ, corresponding to the idea embodied in the name Jehovah, and thus implying what is more fully expressed in John 1:1. (2) The word “form” (which, except for a casual use in Mark 16:12, is found only in this passage of the New Testament) is to be carefully distinguished from “fashion.” There can be no doubt that in classical Greek it describes the actual specific character, which (like the structure of a material substance) makes each being what it is; and this same idea is always conveyed in the New Testament by the compound words in which the root “form” is found (Romans 8:29; Romans 12:2; 2Corinthians 3:18; Galatians 4:19). (3) On the other hand, the word “fashion,” as in 1Corinthians 7:31 (“the fashion of this world passeth away”), denotes the mere outward appearance (which we frequently designate as “form”), as will be seen also in its compounds (2Corinthians 11:13-14; 1Peter 1:14). The two words are seen in juxtaposition in Romans 12:2; Philippians 3:21 (where see Notes). Hence, in this passage the “being in the form of God,” describes our Lord’s essential, and therefore eternal, being in the true nature of God; while the “taking on Him the form of a servant” similarly refers to His voluntary assumption of the true nature of man.

It should be noticed that, whereas in St. Paul’s earlier Epistles, in which he cared not “to know anything save Jesus Christ,” and “Him as crucified,” the main idea is always of our Lord as the mediator between man and God, yet in the later Epistles (as here, and in Ephesians 1:10; Ephesians 1:20-23; Colossians 1:15-19; Colossians 2:9-11; to which we may add Hebrews 1:2-4) stress is laid, sometimes (as in Ephesians 1:10), on His gathering all things in heaven and earth unto Himself; sometimes, even more explicitly, on His partaking of the divine nature, and (as in Colossians 1:17) of His possessing the divine attribute of creation. All this naturally leads up to the great declaration of His true and perfect Godhead in John 1:1-13.

Thought it not robbery to be equal with God.—There are two main interpretations of this passage; first, the interpretation given in our version, which makes it simply an explanation and enforcement of the words “being in the form of God”; secondly, the translation thought it not a prize to be grasped at to be equal with God, which begins in it the statement of our Lord’s voluntary self-humiliation, to be completed in the words, “but emptied Himself of glory.” The former preserves the literal translation of the original word “robbery;” the latter, in accordance with a not uncommon usage, makes it equivalent to “the thing snatched at,” and if this be allowed, has abundant examples in other writings to support the meaning thus given to the whole phrase. Either interpretation yields good sense and sound doctrine; neither does violence to the general context. But the latter is to be preferred; first (1) because it suits better the idea of the passage, which is to emphasise the reality of our Lord’s humility, and preserves the opposition implied in the “but” following; (2) because it has the great preponderance of the ancient Greek interpreters in its favour; (3) because it can, on the whole, appeal more confidently to ordinary usage of the phrase. The sense is that, being in the form of God, and therefore having equality with God, He set no store on that equality, as a glory to Himself, compared with the power of giving salvation to all men, which He is pleased to consider a new joy and glory.

2:5-11 The example of our Lord Jesus Christ is set before us. We must resemble him in his life, if we would have the benefit of his death. Notice the two natures of Christ; his Divine nature, and human nature. Who being in the form of God, partaking the Divine nature, as the eternal and only-begotten Son of God, Joh 1:1, had not thought it a robbery to be equal with God, and to receive Divine worship from men. His human nature; herein he became like us in all things except sin. Thus low, of his own will, he stooped from the glory he had with the Father before the world was. Christ's two states, of humiliation and exaltation, are noticed. Christ not only took upon him the likeness and fashion, or form of a man, but of one in a low state; not appearing in splendour. His whole life was a life of poverty and suffering. But the lowest step was his dying the death of the cross, the death of a malefactor and a slave; exposed to public hatred and scorn. The exaltation was of Christ's human nature, in union with the Divine. At the name of Jesus, not the mere sound of the word, but the authority of Jesus, all should pay solemn homage. It is to the glory of God the Father, to confess that Jesus Christ is Lord; for it is his will, that all men should honour the Son as they honour the Father, Joh 5:23. Here we see such motives to self-denying love as nothing else can supply. Do we thus love and obey the Son of God?Who, being in the form of God - There is scarcely any passage in the New Testament which has given rise to more discussion than this. The importance of the passage on the question of the divinity of the Saviour will be perceived at once, and no small part of the point of the appeal by the apostle depends, as will be seen, in the fact that Paul regarded the Redeemer as equal with God. If he was truly divine, then his consenting to become a man was the most remarkable of all possible acts of humiliation. The word rendered "form" - μορφή morphē - occurs only in three places in the New Testament, and in each place is rendered "form." Mark 16:12; Philippians 2:6-7. In Mark it is applied to the form which Jesus assumed after his resurrection, and in which he appeared to two of his disciples on his way to Emmaus. "After that he appeared in another form unto two of them." This "form" was so unlike his usual appearance, that they did not know him. The word properly means, form, shape, bodily shape, especially a beautiful form, a beautiful bodily appearance - Passow. In Philippians 2:7, it is applied to the appearance of a servant - and took upon him the form of a servant;" that is, he was in the condition of a servant - or of the lowest condition. The word "form" is often applied to the gods by the classic writers, denoting their aspect or appearance when they became visible to people; see Cic. de Nat. Deor. ii. 2; Ovid, Meta. i. 37; Silius, xiii. 643; Xeno. Memora. iv; Aeneid, iv. 556, and other places cited by Wetstein, in loc. Hesychius explains it by ἰδέα εῖδος idea eidos. The word occurs often in the Septuagint:

(1) as the translation of the word ציי - Ziv - "splendour," Daniel 4:33; Daniel 5:6, Daniel 5:9-10; Daniel 7:28;

(2) as the translation of the word תּבנית tabniyth, structure, model, pattern - as in building, Isaiah 44:13;

(3) as the translation of תּמונה temuwnah, appearance, form, shape, image, likeness, Job 4:16; see also Wisdom Job 18:1.

The word can have here only one or two meanings, either:

(1) splendor, majesty, glory - referring to the honor which the Redeemer had, his power to work miracles, etc. - or.

(2) nature, or essence - meaning the same as φύσις phusis, "nature," or ουσία ousia, "being."

The first is the opinion adopted by Crellius, Grotius, and others, and substantially by Calvin. Calvin says, "The form of God here denotes majesty. For as a man is known from the appearance of his form, so the majesty which shines in God, is his figure. Or to use a more appropriate similitude, the form of a king consists of the external marks which indicate a king - as his scepter, diadem, coat of mail, attendants, throne, and other insignia of royalty; the form of a counsul is the toga, ivory chair, attending lictors, etc. Therefore Christ before the foundation of the world was in the form of God, because he had glory with the Father before the world was; John 17:5. For in the wisdom of God, before he put on our nature, there was nothing humble or abject, but there was magnificence worthy of God." Commentary in loc. The second opinion is, that the word is equivalent to nature, or being; that is, that he was in the nature of God, or his mode of existence was that of God, or was divine. This is the opinion adopted by Schleusner (Lexicon); Prof. Stuart (Letters to Dr. Channing, p. 40); Doddridge, and by orthodox expositors in general, and seems to me to be the correct interpretation. In support of this interpretation, and in opposition to that which refers it to his power of working miracles, or his divine appearance when on earth, we may adduce the following considerations:

(1) The "form" here referred to must have been something before he became a man, or before he took upon him the form of a servant. It was something from which he humbled himself by making "himself of no reputation;" by taking upon himself "the form of a servant;" and by being made "in the likeness of men." Of course, it must have been something which existed when he had not the likeness of people; that is, before he became incarnate. He must therefore have had an existence before he appeared on earth as a man, and in that previous state of existence there must have been something which rendered it proper to say that he was "in the form of God."

(2) that it does not refer to any moral qualities, or to his power of working miracles on earth, is apparent from the fact that these were not laid aside. When did he divest himself of these in order that he might humble himself? There was something which he possessed which made it proper to say of him that he was "in the form of God," which he laid aside when he appeared in the form of a servant and in the likeness of human beings. But assuredly that could not have been his moral qualities, nor is there any conceivable sense in which it can be said that he divested himself of the power of working miracles in order that he might take upon himself the "form of a servant." All the miracles which he ever did were performed when he sustained the form of a servant, in his lowly and humble condition. These considerations make it certain that the apostle refers to a period before the incarnation. It may be added:

(3) that the phrase "form of God" is one that naturally conveys the idea that he was God. When it is said that he was "in the form of a servant," the idea is, that he was actually in a humble and depressed condition, and not merely that he appeared to be. Still it may be asked, what was the "form" which he had before his incarnation? What is meant by his having been then "in the form of God?" To these questions perhaps no satisfactory answer can be given. He himself speaks John 17:5 of "the glory which he had with the Father before the world was;" and the language naturally conveys the idea that there was then a manifestation of the divine nature through him, which in some measure ceased when he became incarnate; that there was some visible splendor and majesty which was then laid aside. What manifestation of his glory God may make in the heavenly world, of course, we cannot now fully understand. Nothing forbids us, however, to suppose that there is some such visible manifestation; some splendor and magnificence of God in the view of the angelic beings such as becomes the Great Sovereign of the universe - for he "dwells in light which no map can approach unto;" 1 Timothy 6:16. That glory, visible manifestation, or splendor, indicating the nature of God, it is here said that the Lord Jesus possessed before his incarnation.

Thought it not robbery to be equal with God - This passage, also, has given occasion to much discussion. Prof. Stuart renders it: "did not regard his equality with God as an object of solicitous desire;" that is, that though he was of a divine nature or condition, be did not eagerly seek to retain his equality with God, but took on him an humble condition - even that of a servant. Letters to Channing, pp. 88-92. That this is the correct rendering of the passage is apparent from the following considerations:

(1) It accords with the scope and design of the apostle's reasoning. His object is not to show, as our common translation would seem to imply, that he aspired to be equal with God, or that he did not regard it as an improper invasion of the prerogatives of God to be equal with him, but that he did not regard it, in the circumstances of the case, as an object to greatly desired or eagerly sought to retain his equality with God. Instead of retaining this by an earnest effort, or by a grasp which he was unwilling to relinquish, he chose to forego the dignity, and to assume the humble condition of a man.

(2) it accords better with the Greek than the common version. The word rendered "robbery" - ἁρπαγμος harpagmos - is found nowhere else in the New Testament, though the verb from which it is derived frequently occurs; Matthew 11:12; Matthew 13:19; John 6:15; John 10:12, John 10:28-29; Acts 8:29; Acts 23:10; 2 Corinthians 12:2, 2 Corinthians 12:4; 1 Thessalonians 4:17; Jde 1:23; Revelation 12:5. The notion of violence, or seizing, or carrying away, enters into the meaning of the word in all these places. The word used here does not properly mean an act of robbery, but the thing robbed - the plunder - das Rauben (Passow), and hence something to be eagerly seized and appropriated. Schleusner; compare Storr, Opuscul. Acade. i. 322, 323. According to this, the meaning of the word here is, something to be seized and eagerly sought, and the sense is, that his being equal with God was not a thing to be anxiously retained. The phrase "thought it not," means "did not consider;" it was not judged to be a matter of such importance that it could not be dispensed with. The sense is, "he did not eagerly seize and tenaciously hold" as one does who seizes prey or spoil. So Rosenmuller, Schleusner, Bloomfield, Stuart, and others understand it.


6. Translate, "Who subsisting (or existing, namely, originally: the Greek is not the simple substantive verb, 'to be') in the form of God (the divine essence is not meant: but the external self-manifesting characteristics of God, the form shining forth from His glorious essence). The divine nature had infinite BEAUTY in itself, even without any creature contemplating that beauty: that beauty was 'the form of God'; as 'the form of a servant' (Php 2:7), which is in contrasted opposition to it, takes for granted the existence of His human nature, so 'the form of God' takes for granted His divine nature [Bengel], Compare Joh 5:37; 17:5; Col 1:15, 'Who is the IMAGE of the invisible God' at a time before 'every creature,' 2Co 4:4, esteemed (the same Greek verb as in Php 2:3) His being on an equality with God no (act of) robbery" or self-arrogation; claiming to one's self what does not belong to him. Ellicott, Wahl, and others have translated, "A thing to be grasped at," which would require the Greek to be harpagma, whereas harpagmos means the act of seizing. So harpagmos means in the only other passage where it occurs, Plutarch [On the Education of Children, 120]. The same insuperable objection lies against Alford's translation, "He regarded not as self-enrichment (that is, an opportunity for self-exaltation) His equality with God." His argument is that the antithesis (Php 2:7) requires it, "He used His equality with God as an opportunity, not for self-exaltation, but for self-abasement, or emptying Himself." But the antithesis is not between His being on an equality with God, and His emptying Himself; for He never emptied Himself of the fulness of His Godhead, or His "BEING on an equality with God"; but between His being "in the FORM (that is, the outward glorious self-manifestation) of God," and His "taking on Him the form of a servant," whereby He in a great measure emptied Himself of His precedent "form," or outward self-manifesting glory as God. Not "looking on His own things" (Php 2:4), He, though existing in the form of God, He esteemed it no robbery to be on an equality with God, yet made Himself of no reputation. "Being on an equality with God, is not identical with subsisting in the form of God"; the latter expresses the external characteristics, majesty, and beauty of the Deity, which "He emptied Himself of," to assume "the form of a servant"; the former, "His being," or NATURE, His already existing STATE OF EQUALITY with God, both the Father and the Son having the same ESSENCE. A glimpse of Him "in the form of God," previous to His incarnation, was given to Moses (Ex 24:10, 11), Aaron, &c. Who, i.e. relative to Christ Jesus, the eternal Son of God by nature, very God extant with his Father before the beginning, John 1:1 Galatians 4:4 1 Timothy 3:16 6:14-16 Titus 2:13; the express image and character of his Father’s person, which implies a peculiar subsistence distinct from the subsistence of his Father, John 8:42 2 Corinthians 4:4 Colossians 1:15 Hebrews 1:3; concerning whom, every word that follows, by reason of the Socinians, and some Lutherans, is to be well weighed.

Being; i.e. subsisting, in opposition to taking or assuming, Philippians 2:7; and therefore doth firmly prove Christ pro-existing in another nature to his so doing, namely, his actual existing of himself in the same essence and glory he had from eternity with the Father, John 1:1,2 17:5 2 Corinthians 8:9 Revelation 1:4,8,11.

In the form of God; to understand which clearly:

1. The word

form, though it may sometimes note somewhat outward, and so infer the glory of Christ’s miracles, yet we do not find it any where so used in Scripture: it is true it is once used there for the outward visage, Mark 16:12, which had excelling splendour and beauty, giving occasion to conceive majesty in the person, Matthew 27:2 2 Peter 1:16, (however, his resplendent garments could not be accounted the form of God, ) yet being, Luke saith, Luke 24:16, the eyes of the persons which saw were holden, that for a time they could not acknowledge him, it argues that the appearance Mark speaks of noted only an accidental form.

2. Whereas the

being or subsisting Paul here speaks of, respects (what the best philosophers in their most usual way of speaking do) the essential form, with the glory of it, since the verbs, in other scriptures of the same origin, signify somewhat inward and not conspicuous, Romans 12:2 2 Corinthians 3:18 Galatians 4:19; especially when there is a cogent reason for it here, considering the form of God, in opposition to the form of a servant afterward, and in conjunction with equality to God, which implies the same essence and nature, Isaiah 40:25 46:5, it being impossible there should be any proportion or equality between infinite and finite, eternal and temporal, uncreate and create, by nature God and by nature not God, Galatians 4:4,8, unto which the only living and true God will not suffer his glory to be given. Neither indeed can he deny himself who is one, and besides whom there is no other true God, or God by nature, Deu 4:35 6:4 2 Timothy 2:13; who only doeth wondrous things, Psalm 72:18: for to all Divine operations a Divine power is requisite, which is inseparable from the most simple essence and its properties.

Being, or subsisting,

in the form of God, imports not Christ’s appearance in exerting of God’s power, but his real and actual existence in the Divine essence, not in accidents, wherein nothing doth subsist: neither the vulgar nor learned do use to say any one doth subsist, but appear, in an outward habit; why then should any conceit the apostle means so? The Gentiles might speak of their gods appearing; but then, even they thought the Deity was one thing, and the habit or figure under which, or in which, it appeared was another Acts 14:11: so that subsisting in the form intimates in the nature and essence of God, not barely, but as it were clothed with properties and glory. For the apostle here treats of Christ’s condescension, proceeding from his actual existence, as the term wherein he is co-eternal and co-equal to God the Father, before he abated himself with respect unto us. For he says not the form of God was in Christ, (however that might be truly said), that the adversaries might not have occasion to say only there was somewhat in Christ like unto God; but he speaks of that wherein Christ was, viz. in the form of God, and so that form is predicated of God, as his essence and nature, and can be no other thing. None can rationally imagine that God was an external figure, wherein Christ was subsisting. For subsistence implies some peculiarity relating to the substance of a certain thing, whence we may conclude the Son to be of the same (not only of like) substance with the Father, considering what significantly follows. He

thought it not, esteemed, counted, held (so the word is used, Philippians 2:3 3:7,8 1 Thessalonians 5:13 2 Thessalonians 3:15 1 Timothy 1:12 1 Timothy 6:1 Hebrews 10:29 11:26), it not

robbery, it being his right by eternal generation; i.e. he did not judge it any wrong or usurpation, on that account of his being in the form of God, to be equal to his Father, being a subsistent in the same nature and essence with him. From openly showing equal majesty with whom he did not for a time abstain, in that he could reckon this robbery, as if such majesty were that which did not agree to his nature, ever presupposing this inherent right, to his great condescension, or abasing himself, which follows as the term to which: or, he resolved for a time not to show himself in that glory which was his own right, but freely condescended to the veiling of it. He did not really forego (neither was it possible he should) any thing of his Divine glory, being the Son of God still, without any robbery or rapine, equal to his Father in power and glory, John 10:33 1Jo 5:7,20.

Thought it not robbery; Paul doth not say, (as the Arians of old would pervert his sense), he robbed not, or snatched not, held not fast equality with God; or, (as the Socinians since), Christ thought not to do this robbery to God, or commit this rape upon God, so as that he should be equal to him, but acknowledged he had it of the free gift of God, chopping in the adversative particle, but, where it really is not: whereas we read not in the sacred text, he thought not to do this robbery, but, he thought it not robbery to be equal to God; which two are vastly different, even as much as to have the Godhead by usurpation, and to have it by nature. In the former it is, q.d. Christ did not rob or snatch away the equality; in the latter, the equality which Christ had with God, he thought it no robbery; he reputed not the empire he might have always continued in the exercise of, equal with the Father, as a thing usurped, or taken by force (as one doth hold that he hath taken by spoil, making show of it). For when he had said he had subsisted in the form of God, he could (before he condescended) say also, he was equal to God, i.e. the Father, without any robbery, rapine, or usurpation. And if Socinus urge that it is absurd and false in any sense to say, God thought he had robbed, or taken by robbery, the Divine essence; then this contradictory, God thought not he took by robbery the Divine essence, is rational and true; as when it is said, God cannot lie, or God changeth not, as 1 Samuel 15:29 Isaiah 55:8 Malachi 3:6. What things are denied of God, do not imply the opposites are affirmed of him. The particle but, which follows in its proper place before made himself of no reputation, may be fairly joined with this sense. For if Christ should know that by rapine and unjust usurpation he was equal to God, (as likely the attempt to be so was the sin of our first parents, which robbery of theirs Christ came to expiate), he had not emptied himself, nor vouchsafed to abase himself.

To be equal with God; neither is Christ said to be equal to God only in respect of his works, (which yet argue the same cause and principle, John 5:19,21,23,26,27 10:37), but absolutely, he thought it not robbery to be altogether equal with God, as subsisting in the same nature and essence, the original phrase connoting an exact parity. All the things of Christ (though he chose to have some of them veiled for a time) are equal to God; so some expound the neuter plural emphatically, (as usual amongst the Greeks), to answer the masculine singular foregoing, to express the ineffable sameness of the nature and essence of the Divine subsistents. It may be read: He counted it no robbery that those things which are his own should be equal to God, i.e. the Father; or rather, that he himself should in all things be equal or peer to God. For had Christ been only equal by a delegated power from God, why should the Jews have consulted to kill him, for making himself equal with God? Which with them was all one as to make himself God, John 5:18 10:33. But that he spake of his eternal generation, as owning him for his own Father, with whom he did work miracles, even as the Father did in his own name, by his own power, of himself, for his own glory: neither will the evangelist’s saying: The Son can do nothing of himself, John 5:19, infer an inequality with the Father, when what he doth is equally perfect in power and glory with the Father’s, whence, as son, he hath it by nature. For (looking lower) though every son receives from his father human nature, yet he is not less a man than his father, or his father more a man than he; the son having a being of the same perfection which is naturally in both. However the Father, to whom Christ is in subordination as the Son, and in office a servant, undertaking the work of mediation, may be said to be greater than the Son, that can only be understood with respect to the order of their working, if we compare texts, John 14:28 16:13-15. Neither, when Christ accounted it not robbery to be equal with God, is he said (as the adversaries urge) to be equal to himself, but to another person, viz. God the Father. Things may be equal which are so diverse, that yet they may be one in some common respect wherein they agree: wherefore when Christ is said to be equal with the Father, he is distinguished from him in person and subsistence, yet not in essence, wherein it is his due to be his equal, and therefore one. Who being in the form of God,.... The Father; being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person. This form is to be understood, not of any shape or figure of him; for as such is not to be seen, it is not to be supposed of him; or any accidental form, for there are no accidents in God, whatever is in God, is God; he is nothing but nature and essence, he is the , the Jehovah, I am what I am; and so is his Son, which is, and was, and is to come, the fountain of all created beings nor does it intend any outward representation and resemblance of him, such as in kings; who, because of the honour and dignity they are raised unto, the authority and power they have, and because of the glory and majesty they are arrayed with, are called gods: nor does it design the state and condition Christ appeared in here on earth, having a power to work miracles, heal diseases, and dispossess devils, for the manifestation of his glory; and so might be said to be in the form of God, as Moses for doing less miracles is said to be a God unto Pharaoh; since this account does not regard Christ; as he was on earth in human nature, but what he was antecedent to the assumption of it; or otherwise his humility and condescension in becoming man, and so mean, will not appear: but this phrase, "the form of God", is to be understood of the nature and essence of God, and describes Christ as he was from all eternity; just as the form of a servant signifies that he was really a servant, and the fashion of a man in which he was found means that he was truly and really man; so his being in the form of God intends that he was really and truly God; that he partook of the same nature with the Father, and was possessed of the same glory: from whence it appears, that he was in being before his incarnation; that he existed as a distinct person from God his Father, in whose form he was, and that as a divine person, or as truly God, being in the glorious form, nature, and essence of God; and that there is but one form of God, or divine nature and essence, common to the Father and the Son, and also to the Spirit; so that they are not three Gods, but one God: what the form of God is, the Heathens themselves (g) say cannot be comprehended nor seen, and so not to be inquired after; and they use the same word the apostle does here (h): and now Christ being in this glorious form, or having the same divine nature with the Father, with all the infinite and unspeakable glories of it,

thought it no robbery to be equal with God; the Father; for if he was in the same form, nature, and essence, he must be equal to him, as he is; for he has the same perfections, as eternity, omniscience, omnipotence, omnipresence, immutability, and self-existence: hence he has the same glorious names, as God, the mighty God, the true God, the living God, God over all, Jehovah, the Lord of glory, &c. the same works of creation and providence are ascribed to him, and the same worship, homage, and honour given him: to be "in the form of God", and to be "equal with God", signify the same thing, the one is explanative of the other: and this divine form and equality, or true and proper deity, he did not obtain by force and rapine, by robbery and usurpation, as Satan attempted to do, and as Adam by his instigation also affected; and so the mind of a wicked man, as Philo the Jew says (i), being a lover of itself and impious, , "thinks itself to be equal with God", a like phrase with this here used; but Christ enjoyed this equality by nature; he thought, he accounted, he knew he had it this way; and he held it hereby, and of right, and not by any unlawful means; and he reckoned that by declaring and showing forth his proper deity, and perfect equality with the Father, he robbed him of no perfection; the same being in him as in the Father, and the same in the Father as in him; that he did him no injury, nor deprived him of any glory, or assumed that to himself which did not belong to him: as for the sense which some put upon the words, that he did not "affect", or "greedily catch" at deity; as the phrase will not admit of it, so it is not true in fact; he did affect deity, and asserted it strongly, and took every proper opportunity of declaring it, and in express terms affirmed he was the Son of God; and in terms easy to be understood declared his proper deity, and his unity and equality with the Father; required the same faith in himself as in the Father, and signified that he that saw the one, saw the other, Mark 14:61 John 5:17. Others give this as the sense of them, that he did not in an ostentatious way show forth the glory of his divine nature, but rather hid it; it is true, indeed, that Christ did not seek, but carefully shunned vain glory and popular applause; and therefore often after having wrought a miracle, would charge the persons on whom it was wrought, or the company, or his disciples, not to speak of it; this he did at certain times, and for certain reasons; yet at other times we find, that he wrought miracles to manifest forth his glory, and frequently appeals to them as proofs of his deity and Messiahship: and besides, the apostle is speaking not of what he was, or did in his incarnate state, but of what he was and thought himself to be, before he became man; wherefore the above sense is to be preferred as the genuine one,

(g) Socraticus, Xenophon, & Aristo Chius, apud Minuc. Felic. Octav. p. 20. & Hostanes apud Caecil. Cyprian. de Idol. van. p. 46. (h) Laertii proem. ad Vit. Philosoph. p. 7. (i) Leg. Alleg. l. 1. p. 48, 49.

Who, being in the {d} form of God, {e} thought it not robbery to be {f} equal with God:

(d) Such as God himself is, and therefore God, for there is no one in all parts equal to God but God himself.

(e) Christ, that glorious and everlasting God, knew that he might rightfully and lawfully not appear in the base flesh of man, but remain with majesty fit for God: yet he chose rather to debase himself.

(f) If the Son is equal with the Father, then is there of necessity an equality, which Arrius that heretic denies: and if the Son is compared to the Father, then is there a distinction of persons, which Sabellius that heretic denies.

Php 2:6. The classical passage which now follows is like an Epos in calm majestic objectivity; nor does it lack an epic minuteness of detail.

ὅς] epexegetical; subject of what follows; consequently Christ Jesus, but in the pre-human state, in which He, the Son of God, and therefore according to the Johannine expression as the λόγος ἄσαρκος, was with God.[92] The human state is first introduced by the words ἑαυτὸν ἐκένωσε in Php 2:7. So Chrysostom and his successors, Beza, Zanchius, Vatablus, Castalio, Estius, Clarius, Calixtus, Semler, Storr, Keil, Usteri, Kraussold, Hoelemann, Rilliet, Corn. Müller, and most expositors, including Lünemann, Tholuck, Liebner, Wiesinger, Ernesti, Thomasius, Raebiger, Ewald, Weiss, Kahnis, Beyschlag (1860), Schmid, Bibl. Theol. II. p. 306, Messner, Lehre d. Ap. 233 f., Lechler, Gess, Person Chr. p. 80 f., Rich. Schmidt, l.c., J. B. Lightfoot, Grimm; comp. also Hofmann and Düsterdieck, Apolog. Beitr. III. p. 65 ff. It has been objected (see especially de Wette and Philippi, also Beyschlag, 1866, and Dorner in Jahrb. f. D. Th. 1856, p. 394 f.), that the name Christ Jesus is opposed to this view; also, that in Php 2:8-11 it is the exaltation of the earthly Christ that is spoken of (and not the return of the Logos to the divine δόξα); and that the earthly Christ only could be held up as a pattern. But Χριστὸς Ἰησοῦς, as subject, is all the more justly used (comp. 2 Corinthians 8:9; 1 Corinthians 8:6; Colossians 1:14 ff.; 1 Corinthians 10:4), since the subject not of the pre-human glory alone, but at the same time also of the human abasement[93] and of the subsequent exaltation, was to be named. Paul joins on to ὅς the whole summary of the history of our Lord, including His pre-human state (comp. 2 Corinthians 8:9 : ἐπτώχευσε πλούσιος ὤν); therefore Php 2:8-11 cannot by themselves regulate our view as regards the definition of the subject; and the force of the example, which certainly comes first to light in the historical Christ, has at once historically and ethically its deepest root in, and derives its highest, because divine (comp. Matthew 5:48; Ephesians 5:1), obligation from, just what is said in Php 2:6 of His state before His human appearance. Moreover, as the context introduces the incarnation only at Php 2:7, and introduces it as that by which the subject divested Himself of His divine appearance, and as the earthly Jesus never was in the form of God (comp. Gess, p. 295), it is incorrect, because at variance with the text and illogical, though in harmony with Lutheran orthodoxy and its antagonism to the Kenosis of the Logos,[94] to regard the incarnate historical Christ, the λόγος ἔνσαρκος, as the subject meant by ὅς (Novatian, de Trin. 17, Ambrosiaster, Pelagius, Erasmus, Luther, Calvin, Cameron, Piscator, Hunnius, Grotius, Calovius, Clericus, Bengel, Zachariae, Kesler, and others, including Heinrichs, Baumgarten-Crusius, van Hengel, de Wette, Schneckenburger, Philippi, Beyschlag (1866), Dorner, and others; see the historical details in Tholuck, p. 2 ff., and J. B. Lightfoot). Liebner aptly observes that our passage is “the Pauline ὁ λόγος σὰρξ ἐγένετο;” comp. on Colossians 1:15.

ἐν μορφῇ Θεοῦ ὑπάρχων] not to be resolved, as usually, into “although, etc.,” which could only be done in accordance with the context, if the ἁρπαγμὸν ἡγεῖσθαι κ.τ.λ. could be presupposed as something proper or natural to the being in the form of God; nor does it indicate the possibility of His divesting Himself of His divine appearance (Hofmann), which was self-evident; but it simply narrates the former divinely glorious position which He afterwards gave up: when He found Himself in the form of God, by which is characterized Christ’s pre-human form of existence. Then He was forsooth, and that objectively, not merely in God’s self-consciousness—as the not yet incarnate Son (Romans 1:3-4; Romans 8:3; Galatians 4:4), according to John as λόγος—with God, in the fellowship of the glory of God (comp. John 17:5). It is this divine glory, in which He found Himself as ἴσα Θεῷ ὤν and also εἰκὼν Θεοῦ—as such also the instrument and aim of the creation of the world, Colossians 1:15 f.—and into which, by means of His exaltation, He again returned; so that this divine δόξα, as the possessor of which before the incarnation He had, without a body and invisible to the eye of man (comp. Philo, de Somn. I. p. 655), the form of God, is now by means of His glorified body and His divine-human perfection visibly possessed by Him, that He may appear at the παρουσία, not again without it, but in and with it (Php 3:20 f.). Comp. 2 Corinthians 4:4; Colossians 1:15; Colossians 3:4. Μορφή, therefore, which is an appropriate concrete expression for the divine δόξα (comp. Justin, Apol. I. 9), as the glory visible at the throne of God, and not a “fanciful expression” (Ernesti), is neither equivalent to φύσις or οὐσία (Chrysostom, Theodoret, Oecumenius, Theophylact, Augustine, Chemnitz, and many others; comp. also Rheinwald and Corn. Müller); nor to status (Calovius, Storr, and others); nor is it the godlike capacity for possible equality with God (Beyschlag), an interpretation which ought to have been precluded both by the literal notion of the word μορφή, and by the contrast of μορφὴ δούλου in Php 2:7. But the μορφὴ Θεοῦ presupposes[95] the divine φύσις as ὁμόστολος μορφῆς (Aesch. Suppl. 496), and more precisely defines the divine status, namely, as form of being, corresponding to the essence, consequently to the homoousia, and exhibiting the condition, so that μορφὴ Θεοῦ finds its exhaustive explanation in Hebrews 1:3 : ἀπαύγασμα τῆς δόξης κ. χαρακτὴρ τῆς ὑποστάσεως τοῦ Θεοῦ, this, however, being here conceived as predicated of the pre-existent Christ. In Plat. Rep. ii. p. 381 C, μορφή is also to be taken strictly in its literal signification, and not less so in Eur. Bacch. 54; Ael. H. A. iii. 24; Jos. c. Ap. ii. 16, 22. Comp. also Eur. Bacch. 4 : μορφὴν ἀμείψας ἐκ θεοῦ βροτησίαν, Xen. Cyr. i. 2. 2 : φύσιν μὲν δὴ τῆς ψυχῆς κ. τῆς μορφῆς. What is here called μορφὴ Θεοῦ is εἶδος Θεοῦ in John 5:37 (comp. Plat. Rep. p. 380 D; Plut. Mor. p. 1013 C), which the Son also essentially possessed in His pre-human δόξα (John 17:5). The explanation of φύσις was promoted among the Fathers by the opposition to Arius and a number of other heretics, as Chrysostom adduces them in triumph; hence, also, there is much polemical matter in them. For the later controversy with the Socinians, see Calovius.

ὑπάρχων] designating more expressly than ὤν the relation of the subsisting state (Php 3:20; Luke 7:25; Luke 16:23; 2 Peter 3:11); and hence not at all merely in the decree of God, or in the divine self-consciousness (Schenkel). The time is that of the pre-human existence. See above on ὅς. Those who understand it as referring to His human existence (comp. John 1:14) think of the divine majesty, which Jesus manifested both by word and deed (Ambrosiaster, Luther, Erasmus, Heinrichs, Krause, Opusc. p. 33, and others), especially by His miracles (Grotius, Clericus); while Wetstein and Michaelis even suggest that the transfiguration on the mount is intended. It would be more in harmony with the context to understand the possession of the complete divine image (without arbitrarily limiting this, by preference possibly, to the moral attributes alone, as de Wette and Schneckenburger do)—a possession which Jesus (“as the God-pervaded man,” Philippi) had (potentialiter) from the very beginning of His earthly life, but in a latent manner, without manifesting it. This view, however, would land them in difficulty with regard to the following ἑαυτ. ἐκένωσε κ.τ.λ., and expose them to the risk of inserting limiting clauses at variance with the literal import of the passage; see below.

οὐχ ἁρπαγμὸν ἡγήσατο τὸ εἶναι ἴσα Θεῷ] In order to the right explanation, it is to be observed: (1) that the emphasis is placed on ἁρπαγμόν, and therefore (2) that τὸ εἶναι ἴσα Θεῷ cannot be something essentially different from ἐν μορφῇ Θεοῦ ὑπάρχειν, but must in substance denote the same thing, namely, the divine habitus of Christ, which is expressed, as to its form of appearance, by ἐν μορφῇ Θεοῦ ὑπάρχ., and, as to its internal nature, by τὸ εἶναι ἴσα Θεῷ;[96] (3) lastly, that ἁρπαγμός does not mean praeda, or that which is seized on (which would be ἁρπάγιμον, Callim. Cer. 9; Pallad, ep. 87; Philop. 79; or ἅρπαγμα or ἅρπασμα, and might also be ἁρπαγή), or that which one forcibly snatches to himself (Hofmann and older expositors); but actively: robbing, making booty. In this sense, which is priori probable from the termination of the word which usually serves to indicate an action, it is used, beyond doubt, in the only profane passage in which it is extant, Plut. de pueror. educ. 15 (Mor. p. 12 A): καὶ τοὺς μὲν Θήβῃσι καὶ τοὺς Ἠλίδι φευκτέον ἔρωτας καὶ τὸν ἐκ Κρήτης καλούμενον ἁρπαγμόν, where it denotes the Cretan kidnapping of children. It is accordingly to be explained: Not as a robbing did He consider[97] the being equal with God, i.e. He did not place it under the point of view of making booty, as if it was, with respect to its exertion of activity, to consist in His seizing what did not belong to Him. In opposition to Hofmann’s earlier logical objection (Schriftbew. I. p. 149) that one cannot consider the being as a doing, comp. 1 Timothy 6:5; and see Hofmann himself, who has now recognised the linguistically correct explanation of ἁρπαγμός, but leaves the object of the ἉΡΠΆΖΕΙΝ indefinite, though the latter must necessarily be something that belongs to others, consequently a foreign possession. Not otherwise than in the active sense, namely raptus, can we explain Cyril, de adorat. I. p. 25 (in Wetstein): οὐχ ἁρπαγμὸν[98] τὴν παραίτησιν ὡς ἔξ ἀδρανοῦς καὶ ὑδαρεστέρας ἐποιεῖτο φρενός; further, Eus. in Luc. vi. in Mai’s Nov. Bibl. patr. iv. p. 165, and the passage in Possini Cat. in Marc. x. 42, p. 233, from the Anonym. Tolos.: ὅτι οὐκ ἔστιν ἁρπαγμὸς ἡ τιμή;[99] as also the entirely synonymous form ἁρπασμός in Plut. Mor. p. 644 A, and ληϊσμος in Byzantine writers; also ΣΚΥΛΕΥΜΌς in Eustathius; comp. Phryn. App. 36, where ἁρπαγμός is quoted as equivalent to ἍΡΠΑΣΙς. The passages which are adduced for ἍΡΠΑΓΜΑ ἩΓΕῖΣΘΑΙ or ΠΟΙΕῖΣΘΑΊ ΤΙ (Heliod. vii. 11. 20, viii. 7; Eus. H. E. viii. 12; Vit. C. 2:31)—comp. the Latin praedam ducere (Cic. Verr. v. 15; Justin, ii. 5. 9, xiii. 1. 8)—do not fall under the same mode of conception, as they represent the relation in question as something made a booty of, and not as the Acts of making booty. We have still to notice (1) that this οὐχ ἁρπαγμὸν ἡγήσατο corresponds exactly to ΜῊ ΤᾺ ἙΑΥΤῶΝ ΣΚΟΠΟῦΝΤΕς (Php 2:4), as well as to its contrast ἙΑΥΤῸΝ ἘΚΈΝΩΣΕ in Php 2:7 (see on Php 2:7); and (2) that the aorist ἡγήσατο, indicating a definite point of time, undoubtedly, according to the connection (see the contrast, ἈΛΛʼ ἙΑΥΤῸΝ ἘΚΈΝΩΣΕ Κ.Τ.Λ.), transports the reader to that moment, when the pre-existing Christ was on the point of coming into the world with the being equal to God. Had He then thought: “When I shall have come into the world, I will seize to myself, by means of my equality with God, power and dominion, riches, pleasure, worldly glory,” then He would have acted the part of ἁρπαγμὸν ἡγεῖσθαι τὸ εἶναι ἴσα Θεῷ; to which, however, He did not consent, but consented, on the contrary, to self-renunciation, etc. It is accordingly self-evident that the supposed case of the ἉΡΠΑΓΜΌς is not conceived as an action of the pre-existing Christ (as Richard Schmidt objects), but is put as connecting itself with His appearance on earth. The reflection, of which the pre-existent Christ is, according to our passage, represented as capable, even in presence of the will of God (see below, γενόμ. ὑπήκοος), although the apostle has only conceived it as an abstract possibility and expressed it in an anthropopathic mode of presentation, is decisive in favour of the personal pre-existence; but in this pre-existence the Son appears as subordinate to the Father, as He does throughout the entire New Testament, although this is not (as Beyschlag objects) at variance with the Trinitarian equality of essence in the Biblical sense. By the ἁρπαγμὸν ἡγεῖσθαι κ.τ.λ., if it had taken place, He would have wished to relieve Himself from this subordination.

The linguistic correctness and exact apposite correlation of the whole of this explanation, which harmonizes with 2 Corinthians 8:9,[100] completely exclude the interpretation, which is traditional but in a linguistic point of view is quite incapable of proof, that ἉΡΠΑΓΜΌς, either in itself or by metonymy (in which van Hengel again appeals quite inappropriately to the analogy of Jam 1:2, 2 Peter 3:15), means praeda or res rapienda. With this interpretation of ἁρπαγμός, the idea of ΕἾΝΑΙ ἼΣΑ ΘΕῷ has either been rightly taken as practically identical with ἐν μορφῇ Θεοῦ ὑπάρχειν, or not. (A) In the former case, the point of comparison of the figurative praeda has been very differently defined: either, that Christ regarded the existence equal with God, not as a something usurped and illegitimate, but as something natural to Him, and that, therefore, He did not fear to lose it through His humiliation (Chrysostom, Oecumenius, Theophylact, Augustine, and other Fathers; see Wetstein and J. B. Lightfoot); comp. Beza, Calvin, Estius, and others, who, however, give to the conception a different turn;[101] or, that He did not desire pertinaciously to retain for Himself this equality with God, as a robber his booty, or as an unexpected gain (Ambrosiaster, Castalio, Vatablus, Kesler, and others; and recently, Hoelemann, Tholuck, Reuss, Liebner, Schmid, Wiesinger, Gess, Messner, Grimm; comp. also Usteri, p. 314);[102] or, that He did not conceal it, as a prey (Matthies); or, that He did not desire to display it triumphantly, as a conqueror his spoils (Luther, Erasmus, Cameron, Vatablus, Piscator, Grotius, Calovius, Quenstedt, Wolf, and many others, including Michaelis, Zachariae, Rosenmüller, Heinrichs, Flatt, Rheinwald);[103] whilst others (Wetstein the most strangely, but also Usteri and several) mix up very various points of comparison. The very circumstance, however, that there exists so much divergence in these attempts at explanation, shows how arbitrarily men have endeavoured to supply a modal definition for ἁρπ. ἡγήσ., which is not at all suggested by the text.—(B) In the second case, in which a distinction is made between τὸ εἶναι ἴσα Θεῷ and ἐν μορφῇ Θεοῦ ὑπάρχειν, it is explained: non rapinam duxit, i.e. non rapiendum sibi duxit, or directly, non rapuit (Musculus, Er. Schmidt, Elsner, Clericus, Bengel, and many others, including am Ende, Martini, Krause, Opusc. p. 31, Schrader, Stein, Rilliet, van Hengel, Baumgarten-Crusius, de Wette, Ernesti, Raebiger, Schneckenburger, Ewald, Weiss, Schenkel, Philippi, Thomasius, Beyschlag, Kahnis, Rich. Schmidt, and others); that Christ, namely, though being ἐν μορφῇ Θεοῦ, did not desire to seize to Himself the εἶναι ἴσα Θεῷ, to grasp eagerly the possession of it.[104] In this view expositors have understood the ἴσα εἶναι Θεῷ as the divine plenitudinem et altitudinem (Bengel); the sessionem ad dextram (L. Bos); the divine honour (Cocceius, Stein, de Wette, Grau); the vitam vitae Dei aequalem (van Hengel); the existendi modum cum Deo aequalem (Lünemann); the coli et beate vivere ut Deus (Krause); the dominion on earth as a visible God (Ewald); the divine autonomy (Ernesti); the heavenly dignity and glory entered on after the ascension (Raebiger, comp. Thomasius, Philippi, Beyschlag, Weiss), corresponding to the ὄνομα τὸ ὑπὲρ πᾶν ὄνομα in Php 2:9 (Rich. Schmidt); the nova jura divina, consisting in the κυριότης πάντων (Brückner); the divine δόξα of universal adoration (Schneckenburger, Lechler, comp. Messner); the original blessedness of the Father (Kahnis); indeed, even the identity with the Father consisting in invisibility (Rilliet), and the like, which is to sustain to the μορφὴ Θεοῦ the relation of a plus, or something separable, or only to be obtained at some future time by humiliation and suffering[105] (Php 2:9). So, also, Sabatier, l’ apôtre Paul, 1870, p. 223 ff.[106] In order to meet the ΟὐΧ ἉΡΠ. ἩΓ. (comparing Matthew 4:8 ff.), de Wette (comp. Hofmann, Schriftbew. p. 151) makes the thought be supplied, that it was not in the aim of the work of redemption befitting that Christ should at the very outset receive divine honour, and that, if He had taken it to Himself, it would have been a seizure, an usurpation. But as ἐν μορφῇ Θεοῦ ὑπ. already involves the divine essence,[107] and as ἴσα εἶναι Θεῷ has no distinctive more special definition in any manner climactic (comp. Pfleiderer), Chrysostom has estimated this whole mode of explanation very justly: εἰ ἦν Θεός, πῶς εἶχεν ἁρπάσαι; καὶ πῶς οὐκ ἀπερινόητον τοῦτο; τίς γὰρ ἂν εἴποι, ὅτι ὁ δεῖνα ἄνθρωπος ὤν οὐχ ἥρπασε τὸ εἶναι ἄνθρωπος; πῶς γὰρ ἄν τις ὅπερ ἐστὶν, ἁρπάσειεν. Moreover, in harmony with the thought and the state of the case, Paul must have expressed himself conversely: ὃς ἴσα Θεῷ ὑπάρχων οὐχ ἁρπ. ἠγ. τὸ εἶναι ἐν μορφῇ Θεοῦ, so as to add to the idea of the equality of nature (ἴσα), by way of climax, that of the same form of appearance (μορφή), of the divine δόξα also.

With respect to τὸ εἶναι ἴσα Θεῷ, it is to be observed, (1) that ἴσα is adverbial: in like manner, as we find it, although less frequently, in Attic writers (Thuc. iii. 14; Eur. Or. 880 al.; comp. ὁμοῖα, Lennep. ad Phalar. 108), and often in the later Greek, and in the LXX. (Job 5:14; Job 10:10Php 2:6-11. In the discussion of this crux interpretum it is impossible, within our limits, to do more than give a brief outline of the chief legitimate interpretations, laying special emphasis on that which we prefer and giving our reasons. As regards literature, a good account of the older exegesis is given by Tholuck, Disputatio Christologica, pp. 2–10. Franke (in Meyer5) gives a very full list of modern discussions. In addition to commentaries and the various works on Biblical Theology, the following discussions are specially important: Räbiger, De Christologia Paulina, pp. 76–85; R. Schmidt, Paulinische Christologie, p. 163 ff.; W. Grimm, Zw. Th[97], xvi., 1, p. 33 ff.; Hilgenfeld, ibid., xxvii., 4, p. 498 ff.; W. Weiffenbach, Zur Auslegung d. Stelle Phil., ii. 5–11 (Karlsruhe, 1884); E. H. Gifford, Expositor, v., vol. 4, p. 161 ff., 241 ff. [since published separately]; Somerville, St. Paul’s Conception of Christ, p. 188 ff. It may be useful to note certain cautions which must be observed if the Apostle’s thought is to be truly grasped. (a) This is not a discussion in technical theology. Paul does not speculate on the great problems of the nature of Christ. The elaborate theories reared on this passage and designated “kenotic” would probably have surprised the Apostle. Paul is dealing with a question of practical ethics, the marvellous condescension and unselfishness of Christ, and he brings into view the several stages in this process as facts of history either presented to men’s experience or else inferred from it. [At the same time, as J. Weiss notes (Th. LZ[98], 1899, col. 263), the careful rhetorical structure of the passage (two strophes of four lines) shows that the thought has been patiently elaborated.] (b) It is beside the mark to apply the canons of philosophic terminology to the Apostle’s language. Much trouble would be saved if interpreters instead of minutely investigating the refinements of Greek metaphysics, on the assumption that they are present here, were to ask themselves, “What other terms could the Apostle have used to express his conceptions?” (c) It is futile to attempt to make Paul’s thought in this passage fit in with any definite and systematic scheme of Christology such as the “Heavenly Man,” etc. This only hampers interpretation.

[97] Zeitschr. f. wissenschaftl. Theologie.

[98] Theologische Literaturzeitung.6. Who] in His pre-existent glory. We have in this passage a N.T. counterpart to the O.T. revelation of Messiah’s “coming to do the will of His God” (Psalm 40:6-8, interpreted Hebrews 10:5).

being] The Greek word slightly indicates that He not only “was,” but “already was,” in a state antecedent to and independent of the action to be described. R.V. margin has “Gr. originally being”; but the American Revisers dissent.

in the form of God] The word rendered “form” is morphê. This word, unlike our “form” in its popular meaning, connotes reality along with appearance, or in other words denotes an appearance which is manifestation. It thus differs from the word (schêma) rendered “fashion” in Php 2:8 below; where see note. See notes on Romans 12:2 in this Series for further remarks on the difference between the two words; and cp. for full discussions, Abp Trench’s Synonyms, under μορφή, and Bp Lightfoot’s Philippians, detached note to ch. 2.

Here then our Redeeming Lord is revealed as so subsisting “in the form of God” that He was what He seemed, and seemed what He was—God. (See further, the next note below, and on Php 2:7.) “Though [morphê] is not the same as [ousia, essence], yet the possession of the [morphê] involves participation in the [ousia] also, for [morphê] implies not the external accidents [only?] but the essential attributes” (Lightfoot).

thought] The glorious Person is viewed as (speaking in the forms of human conception) engaged in an act of reflection and resolve.

robbery] The Greek word occurs only here in the Greek Scriptures, and only once (in Plutarch, cent. 2) in secular Greek writers. Its form suggests the meaning of a process or act of grasp or seizure. But similar forms in actual usage are found to take readily the meaning of the result, or material, of an act or process. “An invader’s or plunderer’s prize” would thus fairly represent the word here. This interpretation is adopted and justified by Bp Lightfoot here. R.V. reads “a prize,” and in the margin “Gr. a thing to be grasped.” Liddell and Scott render, “a matter of robbery,” which is substantially the same; Bp Ellicott, “a thing to be seized on, or grasped at.”—The context is the best interpreter of the practical bearing of the word. In that context it appears that the Lord’s view of His Equality (see below) was not such as to withstand His gracious and mysterious Humiliation for our sakes, while yet the conditions of His Equality were such as to enhance the wonder and merit of that Humiliation to the utmost. Accordingly the phrase before us, to suit the context, (a) must not imply that He deemed Equality an unlawful possession, a thing which it would be robbery to claim, as some expositors, ancient and modern, have in error explained the words (see Alford’s note here, and St Chrysostom on this passage at large); (b) must imply that His thought about the Equality was one of supremely exemplary kindness towards us. These conditions are satisfied by the paraphrase—“He dealt with His true and rightful Equality not as a thing held anxiously, and only for Himself, as the gains of force or fraud are held, but as a thing in regard of which a most gracious sacrifice and surrender was possible, for us and our salvation.”

The A.V., along with many interpreters, appears to understand the Greek word as nearly equal to “usurpation”; as if to say, “He knew it was His just and rightful possession to be equal with God, and yet” &c. But the context and the Greek phraseology are unfavourable to this.

to be equal with God] R.V., to be on an equality with God, a phrase which perhaps better conveys what the original words suggest, that the reference is to equality of attributes rather than person (Lightfoot). The glorious Personage in view is not another and independent God, of rival power and glory, but the Christ of God, as truly and fully Divine as the Father.

Let us remember that these words occur not in a polytheistic reverie, but in the Holy Scriptures, which everywhere are jealous for the prerogative of the Lord God, and that they come from the pen of a man whose Pharisaic monotheism sympathized with this jealousy to the utmost. May it not then be asked, how—in any, way other than direct assertion, as in John 1:1–the true and proper Deity of Christ could be more plainly stated?

The word “God” on the other hand is here used manifestly with a certain distinctiveness of the Father. Christian orthodoxy, collecting the whole Scripture evidence, sees in this a testimony not to the view (e.g. of Arius, cent. 4) that the Son is God only in a secondary and inferior sense, but that the Father is the eternal, true, and necessary Fountain of the eternal, true, and necessary Godhead of the Son.—For this use of the word God, see e.g. John 1:1; 2 Corinthians 13:14; Hebrews 1:9; Revelation 20:6; Revelation 22:1.Php 2:6. Ὃς) inasmuch as being one who.—ἐν μορφῇ Θεοῦ ὑπάρχων, subsisting in the form of God) The name God, in this and the following clause, does not denote God the Father, but is put indefinitely. The form of God does not imply the Deity, or Divine nature itself, but something emanating from it; and yet again it does not denote the being on an equality with God, but something prior, viz. the appearance [outward manifestation] of God, i.e. the form shining forth from the very glory of the Invisible Deity, John 1:14. The Divine nature had infinite beauty in itself, even without any creature contemplating that beauty. That beauty was the μορφὴ Θεοῦ, form of God, as in man beauty shines forth from the sound constitution and elegant symmetry of his body, whether it has or has not any one to look at it. Man himself is seen by his form; so God and His glorious Majesty. This passage furnishes an excellent proof of the Divinity of Christ from this very fact; for as the form of a servant does not signify the human nature itself—for the form of a servant was not perpetual, but the human nature is to continue for ever—yet nevertheless it takes for granted the existence of the human nature: so the form of God is not the Divine nature, nor is the being on an equality with God the Divine nature; but yet He, who was subsisting in the form of God, and who might have been on an equality with God, is God. Moreover the form of God is used rather than the form of the Lord, as presently after on an equality with God: because God is more an absolute word, Lord involves a relation to inferiors. The Son of God subsisted in that form of God from eternity: and when He came in the flesh He did not cease to be in that form, but rather, so far as the human nature is concerned, He began to subsist in it: and when He was in that form, by His own peculiar pre-eminence itself as Lord, it was entirely in His power, even according to His human nature, so soon as He assumed it, to be on an equality with God, to adopt a mode of life and outward distinctions, which would correspond to His dignity, that He might be received and treated by all creatures as their Lord; but He acted differently.—οὐχ ἁρπαγμὸν ἡγήσατο, He did not regard it a thing to be eagerly caught at as a prey) as a spoil. Those, to whom any opportunity of sudden advantage is presented, are usually eager in other cases to fly upon it and quickly to lay hold of it, without having any respect to others, and determinately to use and enjoy it. Hence ἁρπαλέα, with Eustathius, means, τὰ πάνυ περισπούδαστα, the things which a man may with all eagerness snatch for his own use, and may claim as his own: and the phrases occur, ἅρπαγμα, ἁρπαγμὸν, ἕρμαιον, εὕρημα, νομίζειν, ποεῖσθαι, ἡγεῖσθαι, ἁρπάζειν. E. Schmidius and G. Raphelius have collected examples from Heliodorus and Polybius. But Christ, though He might have been on an equality with God, did not snatch at it, did not regard it as spoil.[17] He did not suddenly use that power; compare Psalm 69:5; Genesis 3:5, etc. This feeling on His part is at the same time indicated by the verb ἡγεῖσθαι, to regard, to treat it as. It would not have been robbery (rapina), if He had used His own right; but He abstained from doing so, just as if it had been robbery. A similar phrase at 2 Corinthians 11:8, where see the note, may be compared with it.—τὸ εἶναι ἶσα Θεῷ) ἶσα, the accusative used adverbially, as happens often in Job, on an equality with and in a manner suitable to God. To be on an equality with God, implies His fulness and exaltation, as is evident from the double antithesis, Php 2:7-8, He emptied and humbled Himself. The article, without which μορφὴν is put, makes now an emphatic addition [Epitasis]. It is not therefore wonderful, that He never called Himself God, rather rarely the Son of God, generally the Song of Solomon of man.

[17] Many think rightly, from a passage of Plutarch, quoted by Wetstein, that ἁρπαγμὸς signifies the act by which anything is greedily seized, and the desire which leads to it; but that ἀρπάγμα, having a neuter ending, indicates the object desired, the thing seized, the prey. Drusius, in Crit. S.S., Lond., tries to show that ἁρπαγμὸς, as well as ἁρπάγμα, though both strictly signifying an act, may signify the thing which is the object of the act. Wahl renders ἁρπαγμὸς, “res cupidè arripienda et necessario usurpanda.” So Neander, “Conscious of Divinity, He did not eagerly retain equality with God for the mere exhibition of it, but emptied Himself of the outward attributes and glory of it.” The antithesis favours this view. However, there seems no very valid argument against ἁρπαγμὸς being taken in the strict sense, as Engl. V., ‘thought’ the being on an equality with God no act of ‘robbery,’ or arrogation of what did not belong to Him. It is true the antithesis, as Olshausen argues, ἀλλʼ ἐκένωσεν, may seem to suit better Wahl’s rendering. But ἁρπαγμὸς, in the only passage where it occurs, Plut. de puer. educ., 120, means raptus or actio rapiendi, not res rapta. It is only by metonymy it can be made even res rapienda. As to the antithesis, ἀλλʼ plainly means, And yet: Though having been in the form of God, etc., yet, etc.—ED.Verse 6. - Who, being in the form of God. The word rendered "being" (ὑπάρχων) means, as R.V. in margin, being originally. It looks back to the time before the Incarnation, when the Word, the Λόγος ἄσαρκος, was with God (comp. John 8:58; John 17:5, 24). What does the word μορφή form, mean here? It occurs twice in this passage - Ver. 6, "form of God;" and Ver. 7, "form of a servant;" it is contrasted with σχῆμα fashion, in Ver. 8. In the Aristotelian philosophy (vide ' De Anima,' 2:1, 2) μορφή. is used almost in the sense of εϊδος, or τὸ τί η΅ν εϊναι as that which makes a thing to be what it is, the sum of its essential attributes: it is the form, as the expression of those essential attributes, the permanent, constant form; not the fleeting, outward σχῆμα, or fashion. St. Paul seems to make a somewhat similar distinction between the two words. Thus in Romans 8:29; Galatians 4:19; 2 Corinthians 3:18; Philippians 2:10, μορφή (or its derivatives) is used of the deep inner change of heart, the change which is described in Holy Scripture as a new creation; while σχῆμα is used of the changeful fashion of the world and agreement with it (1 Corinthians 7:31; Romans 12:2). Then, when St. Paul tells us that Christ Jesus, being first in the form of God, took the form of a servant, the meaning must be that he possessed originally the essential attributes of Deity, and assumed in addition the essential attributes of humanity. He was perfect God; he became perfect (comp. Colossians 1:15; Hebrews 1:3; 2 Corinthians 4:4). For a fuller discussion of the meanings of μορφή and σχῆμα, see Bishop Lightfoot's detached note ('Philippians,' p. 127), and Archbishop Trench, 'Synonyms of the New Testament,' sect. 70. Thought it not robbery to be equal with God; R.V. "counted it not a prize [margin, 'a thing to be grasped'] to be on an equality with God." These two renderings represent two conflicting interpretations of this difficult passage. Do the words mean that Christ asserted his essential Godhead ("thought it not robbery to be equal with God," as A.V.), or that he did not cling to the glory of the Divine majesty ("counted it not a prize," as R.V.)? Both statements are true in fact. The grammatical form of the word ἁρπαγμός, which properly implies an action or process, favors the first view, which seems to be adopted by most of the ancient versions and by most of the Latin Fathers. On the other hand, the form of the word does not exclude the passive interpretation; many words of the same termination have a passive meaning, and ἁρπαγμός itself is used in the sense of ἅρπαγμα by Eusebius, Cyril of Alexandria, and a writer in the 'Catena Possini' on Mark 10:42 (the three passages are quoted by Bishop Lightfoot, in loco). The Greek Fathers (as Chrysostom Ὁ τοῦ Θεοῦ υἱὸς οὐκ ἐφοβήθη καταβῆναι ἀπὸ τοῦ ἀξιώματος, etc.) generally adopt this interpretation. And the context seems to require it. The aorist ἡγήσατο points to an act, the act of abnegation; not to a state, the continued assertion. The conjunction "but" (ἀλλὰ) implies that the two sentences are opposed to one another. He did not grasp, but, on the contrary, he emptied himself. The first interpretation involves the tacit insertion of "nevertheless;" he asserted his equality, but nevertheless, etc. And the whole stress is laid on the Lord's humility and unselfishness. It is true that this second interpretation does not so distinctly assert the divinity of our Lord, already sufficiently asserted in the first clause, "being in the form of God." But it implies it. Not to grasp at equality with God would not be an instance of humility, but merely the absence of mad impiety, in one who was not himself Divine. On the whole, then, we prefer the second interpretation. Though he was born the beginning in the form of God, he did not regard equality with God as a thing to be grasped, a prize to be tenaciously retained. Not so good is the view of Meyer and others: "Jesus Christ, when he found himself in the heavenly mode of existence of Divine glory, did not permit himself the thought of using his equality with God for the purpose of seizing possessions and honor for himself on earth." The R.V. rendering of the last words of the clause," to be on an equality," is nearer to the Greek and better than the A.V., "to be equal with God." Christ was equal with God (John 5:18; John 10:30). He did not cling to the outward manifestation of that equality. The adverbial form ἴσα implies the state or mode of equality rather than the equality itself. Being in the form of God (ἐν μορφῇ Θεοῦ ὑπάρχων)

Being. Not the simple είναι to be, but stronger, denoting being which is from the beginning. See on James 2:15. It has a backward look into an antecedent condition, which has been protracted into the present. Here appropriate to the preincarnate being of Christ, to which the sentence refers. In itself it does not imply eternal, but only prior existence. Form (μορφή). We must here dismiss from our minds the idea of shape. The word is used in its philosophic sense, to denote that expression of being which carries in itself the distinctive nature and character of the being to whom it pertains, and is thus permanently identified with that nature and character. Thus it is distinguished from σχῆμα fashion, comprising that which appeals to the senses and which is changeable. Μορφή form is identified with the essence of a person or thing: σχῆμα fashion is an accident which may change without affecting the form. For the manner in which this difference is developed in the kindred verbs, see on Matthew 17:2.

As applied here to God, the word is intended to describe that mode in which the essential being of God expresses itself. We have no word which can convey this meaning, nor is it possible for us to formulate the reality. Form inevitably carries with it to us the idea of shape. It is conceivable that the essential personality of God may express itself in a mode apprehensible by the perception of pure spiritual intelligences; but the mode itself is neither apprehensible nor conceivable by human minds.

This mode of expression, this setting of the divine essence, is not identical with the essence itself, but is identified with it, as its natural and appropriate expression, answering to it in every particular. It is the perfect expression of a perfect essence. It is not something imposed from without, but something which proceeds from the very depth of the perfect being, and into which that being perfectly unfolds, as light from fire. To say, then, that Christ was in the form of God, is to say that He existed as essentially one with God. The expression of deity through human nature (Philippians 2:7) thus has its background in the expression of deity as deity in the eternal ages of God's being. Whatever the mode of this expression, it marked the being of Christ in the eternity before creation. As the form of God was identified with the being of God, so Christ, being in the form of God, was identified with the being, nature, and personality of God.

This form, not being identical with the divine essence, but dependent upon it, and necessarily implying it, can be parted with or laid aside. Since Christ is one with God, and therefore pure being, absolute existence, He can exist without the form. This form of God Christ laid aside in His incarnation.

Thought it not robbery to be equal with God (οὐχ ἁρπαγμὸν ἡγήσατο τὸ εἶναι ἴσα Θεῷ)

Robbery is explained in three ways. 1. A robbing, the Acts 2. The thing robbed, a piece of plunder. 3. A prize, a thing to be grasped. Here in the last sense.

Paul does not then say, as A.V., that Christ did not think it robbery to be equal with God: for, 1, that fact goes without. saying in the previous expression, being in the form of God. 2. On this explanation the statement is very awkward. Christ, being in the form of God, did not think it robbery to be equal with God; but, after which we should naturally expect, on the other hand, claimed and asserted equality: whereas the statement is: Christ was in the form of God and did not think it robbery to be equal with God, but (instead) emptied Himself. Christ held fast His assertion of divine dignity, but relinquished it. The antithesis is thus entirely destroyed.

Taking the word ἁρπαγμὸν (A.V., robbery) to mean a highly prized possession, we understand Paul to say that Christ, being, before His incarnation, in the form of God, did not regard His divine equality as a prize which was to be grasped at and retained at all hazards, but, on the contrary, laid aside the form of God, and took upon Himself the nature of man. The emphasis in the passage is upon Christ's humiliation. The fact of His equality with God is stated as a background, in order to throw the circumstances of His incarnation into stronger relief. Hence the peculiar form of Paul's statement Christ's great object was to identify Himself with humanity; not to appear to men as divine but as human. Had He come into the world emphasizing His equality with God, the world would have been amazed, but not saved He did not grasp at this. The rather He counted humanity His prize, and so laid aside the conditions of His preexistent state, and became man.

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